A hang-up I’d like to share

Cell phones are marvelous inventions.

They allow us to work virtually, to share special moments in real-time and on more than one occasion they have even saved lives.  But, as wonderful as they are, they also have a dark side.   They can rob us of the joy of quiet reflection, they can act as an electronic time waster and they can contribute to serious injuries and even death.

For a long time, I have thought to myself that cell phones needed a warning label, much like we find on beer cans and other consumer products.

I’m amazed at how many intelligent adults lose all sense of decorum when their ear is distracted by the call of their “own private Idaho.” I have squirmed in a nice Chinese restaurant while a man in a business suit reviewed the particulars of his failed marriage within earshot of my grade-school children.  This particular conversation was laced with many small words that they hadn’t yet learned and I didn’t want to define.

I silently seethe as my own sweet sister lets call after call interrupt the beauty and mental continuity of our shared walk on a winding mountain road. What is intended as catch-up time suddenly is tossed aside as a lost moment in time.

I have watched young mothers pick up their toddlers from school with nary a word to their child while yakking away into a palm-sized piece of plastic about something apparently more important.

What kind of messages are we sending with our compulsive communications addiction? Using cell phones is appropriate in certain settings, but not in others. We all need to exercise more self-control.

What disturbs me the most are the hundreds of motorists who seem to think that calling and driving are compatible activities. That’s why I was thrilled when 11Alive asked us to help get the word out about the 11Alive Great Hang Up to educate Atlantans about the dangers of texting and driving.

The station put drivers from all walks of life on a test course and measured how their performance was affected by incoming calls and texts. Turns out, talking on a Bluetooth is just as bad as driving drunk.  You can see for yourself here.

I hope that companies, families and individuals will take the time to watch this coverage and take the pledge to hang up while driving.  You can download the pledge here.   Everyone talks about the importance of having this conversation with young drivers.  I agree, but it’s the adult drivers who first need to hang up and have a conversation with themselves about the example they are setting.